Teresa Margolles: We Have a Common Thread
July 12 - October 11, 2015
Born in Culiacán, Mexico, Teresa Margolles is an artist working with photography, video, sculpture, and performance. She has spent the last two decades exploring socio-political issues related to violent death in Mexico, engaging the sense of loss and sorrow that each assassination leaves on the victim’s family, friends, and community.
Teresa Margolles: We Have a Common Thread expands on the artist’s long exploration of violence through a series of new works involving the unprecedented participation of artist-embroiderers from Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States, all of whom share her concerns about violence, particularly against women. After explaining her vision for the project, Margolles provided each group with a fabric that had been marked through contact with the body of a woman, or in some cases a man, who had suffered a violent death. She invited the embroiderers to create patterns on the fabric as a way to trigger a conversation about the violence and social problems plaguing their respective communities. Some of these conversations were recorded and are included here in a series of videos providing context for the textiles.
The works presented in this exhibition express in a collective voice the challenges faced by each community. The textile from Guatemala memorializes the sorrows and struggles of Mayan women living on the shores of Lake Atitlan. Focusing on domestic and social violence, the embroiderers condemn the sexual abuses and murders that mark their lives, and the impunity that surrounds the perpetrators. The work created in Mexico by Rarámuri (Tarahumara) living on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez evokes the stigmatization of native women because of the way they dress and the language they speak. The embroiderers also describe the assassinations of Rarámuri living in the mountains, and the subsequent cover-up by authorities who claim that the victims had committed suicide due to hunger. The textile created in Brazil recalls the cold-blooded murder of a woman in Recife, and the fact that someone can die in total anonymity—as if she or he had never existed—due to the inflexibility of a government bureaucracy that refuses to help the citizens. The work from Panama records a similar situation, in which a native Kuna boy was brutally murdered in enigmatic circumstances. Because the family lived away from their native village the boy could never receive a traditional Kuna burial. Recalling the disastrous effect of the Contra war in Nicaragua in the 1980s, when everyone was considered a Sandinista, the work of embroiders from Managua recalls the entire generation that continues to suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, and a circle of daily violence. Finally, the textile recently completed in Harlem, New York City, expresses the artists’ concerns regarding the police brutality affecting the African-American community today, and the increasing number of deaths that result from it. The work was created on a fabric imprinted by the spot on Staten Island where Eric Garner died while being placed under arrest, a subject of intense debate in the U.S. Like the rest of the works, this textile expresses the artist-embroiders’ search for justice and a hope for better social conditions in their community.
Teresa Margolles: We Have a Common Thread is organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, SUNY, and curated by Patrice Giasson, the Alex Gordon Associate Curator of the Art of the Americas.
Generous support for Teresa Margolles: We Have a Common Thread has been provided by the Alex Gordon Estate. Additional support has been provided by the Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art and by the Purchase College Foundation.
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Installation views of the exhibition Teresa Margolles: We Have a Common Thread at the Neuberger Museum of Art by Rafael Burillo:
The Testimony: A Performance
On September 2, 2015, in tandem with the exhibition Teresa Margolles: We Have a Common Thread and under the direction of Antonio de la Rosa and Teresa Margolles, six students from Purchase College–SUNY went to six locations on the College’s campus. The students—Jade Green, Keara Martin, Max Mauro, Mary McEvoy, Daisy Padilla, and Roula Zyada— approached individual passersby and told to each a story related to one of the six textiles on display in the exhibition. These stories were taken from the videos accompanying the textiles, in which you could hear the local embroiderers’ conversations about violence in their communities. As Antonio de la Rosa noted, “by doing this action in different locations of the campus, the narratives got out of the Museum, reengaging with the oral tradition and allowing the creation of invisible links between the students ¬—the ones who spoke and the ones who listened—and the Museum.”
These activities, which lasted two hours, were followed by a performance inside the Neuberger Museum of Art. Jade Green, who had recounted the Harlem narrative, entered the Museum with Danna Carina Cruz, another student. They carried a bucket of water and a cloth. This fabric, like the one in the gallery onto which Harlem embroiderers had created the work american Juju for the Tapestry of Truth, originated from the imprinting of the spot in Staten Island where Eric Garner died, victim of a NYPD choke hold. The two students submerged the cloth into the bucket, and Green began to skim the surface of the Museum’s courtyard windows, leaving behind residue from the site, visible both from inside and outside the Museum. For a moment, the presence of Eric Garner seemed to materialize in the stain as water heightened its color, before evanescing slowly as the cloth became saturated, the stain becoming paler and paler. “With this action,” said de la Rosa, “the conflict surrounding racial assassinations is brought into the Museum.” For Patrice Giasson, the curator of the exhibition, “this action embodied a metonymical transformation of the institution itself, the container becoming stained with the works on display. Sweating with its content, the Museum evolved from a passive to an active mode.”
The windows were left blurry until the closing of the exhibition. Coordinated by Camilla Cook and Emily Greco, these events were organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art and the School of Art Design at Purchase College–SUNY, in tandem with the exhibition Teresa Margolles: We Have a Common Thread (July 12—October 11, 2015), curated by Patrice Giasson.
Shots taken on Campus during the performance series The Testimony (September 2nd, 2015, Neuberger Museum of Art and Purchase College SUNY). Photos by Patrice Giasson.
Shots taken in the Museum during the performance series The Testimony (September 2nd, 2015, Neuberger Museum of Art and Purchase College SUNY). Photos by Patrice Giasson and José Smith.
Antonio de le Rosa, who directed the performance with Teresa Margolles.
Shot taken in the Museum during the performance series The Testimony
, 2015, Neuberger Museum of Art and Purchase College SUNY). Photo by Patrice Giasson.